Sun, Oct 05, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Vettel to leave Red Bull, set to join Ferrari

Reuters, SUZUKA, Japan

Red Bull Racing driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany speeds during the qualifying session at the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Red Bull dropped a bombshell on the Formula One paddock yesterday with the news that four time world champion Sebastian Vettel is leaving at the end of the season and heading for Ferrari.

With the sport already braced for a typhoon at the Japanese Grand Prix, Red Bull’s announcement sent a tremor through the sport as the implications of the move sank in.

“Sebastian Vettel has advised us that he will be leaving Red Bull at the end of the 2014 season,” the champions said in a statement. “We want to warmly thank Sebastian for the incredible role he has played at Red Bull for the last six years.”

Team principal Christian Horner said the 27-year-old was joining Ferrari, although there was no immediate confirmation from the Italian team, whose principal Marco Mattiacci remained tight-lipped.

At the same time, Red Bull moved swiftly to fill the vacancy by appointing 20-year-old Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat from Toro Rossso to take Vettel’s place next year, alongside Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

Vettel, who has been part of the Red Bull “family” for 15 years, said it had been “a tough day and a tough decision’ and it was not because he was unhappy at the team.

“We had an incredible run, the last five or six years. Obviously, this year was not the way we were hoping for, but it’s part of racing, part of life,” he told Sky television. “I’m leaving a very happy place ... but at some point in your life you feel you want to do something new. That voice kept growing and led me to decide to leave Red Bull and start a new chapter.”

“It has nothing to do with the results we had this year. It’s more the fact that I felt ready and I thought the time is right,” Vettel said. “I’m full of hope and full of faith that anywhere I go I will succeed.”

Former Ferrari driver Niki Lauda, who is now non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team, said Vettel had told Horner only on Friday night.

“Last night at 9:30, Sebastian walked up to Christian and said: ‘I’m leaving.’ Honestly, it was that way,” the Austrian said. “He surprised everybody because in his contract he could do that.”

The moves left an open question mark over the future of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who could now return to McLaren in a remarkable turnaround for a driver who fell out with that team’s principal Ron Dennis in 2007.

They could also signal the end of the road for 2009 champion Jenson Button, who is out of contract with McLaren at the end of the year.

Alonso’s contract runs until the end of the 2016 season, but Ferrari is going through major change, with long-standing chairman Luca di Montezemolo leaving this month after key departures earlier in the year.

“The news as far as I know is Sebastian is leaving Red Bull. The other thing is just a guess of everybody,” said Alonso, keeping his cards close to his chest.

“I am still not decided completely,” smiled the 33-year-old Spaniard, who has grown increasingly disillusioned with the lack of success for the sport’s glamor team.

Ferrari, who dominated the sport with Michael Schumacher in the early years of the century, have not won a race in more than a year and face the prospect of recording their first winless season since 1993.

“I have a plan in my head, I have my mindset for the last two or three months,” Alonso said. “I have a privileged position because, more or less, I can choose wherever I want to go in the moment I want to go. I gained that respect in so many years.”

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